Saturday, June 13, 2009

June 13, 2009 - Winslow Cemetery, Marshfield, Massachusetts

I guess it's just one of those "wow, I never knew this was here" moments again. It's not that I didn't know the cemetery was here. I just had never walked far enough into it to see what was really special about it.

I had planned on walking Winslow Cemetery Road this morning, just before leading a three-hour nature walk at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary, but found that my time was usurped by the ghosts of Marshfield's past. I never left the graveyard.

I knew Daniel Webster was here. He's Marshfield's most prominent and famous citizen. He was a politician, born in New Hampshire, moved to Marshfield, who made a splash on the national stage in the early years of the nineteenth century. But he was also just damn good at speaking in public. Among his greatest accomplishments were hammering out the Maine-Canada border with Lord Ashburton, right here in town, and delivering the dedication speech at the Bunker Hill Monument. My favorite quote came from that day. When the rowdy, excitable crowd was pushing its way forward and disallowing the commencement of the ceremonies, somebody said, "We can't get them back, it's impossible." To which Webster boomed, "This is Bunker Hill. ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!" and the crowd moved back.

What an epithet to carry through history: "statesman and orator." I'll end up with something like "babbling blogger."

He owned the lands abutting the cemetery, and knew well the history of the people who came before him at Green Harbor, the local neighborhood. There was the Winslow family. Edward is buried here, the founder of Marshfield, as is Josias, an early governor of Massachusetts. The Thomases lived here, too, famous for housing British troops on the outbreak of war who had to scuttle their way across marshy wetlands to the safety of ships at sea before the local townsmen reached them with their pitchforks and rifles.

What I really didn't know was that there was an early meetinghouse built on what is now cemetery land. There are several stones - purported to be of early settlers - that are simply uninscribed, unmarked mounds of stone set in the earth. They made me wonder. The Native Americans on Block Island, Rhode Island, buried their dead in this way. Do we have certain documentation saying that these stones are those of white settlers, or could they belong to the natives?

Time:46 minutes.

New species: (Butterflies) Monarch! (12).

Stranger hellos: None.

What else is happening: work on the book; led the walk; got interviewed for a magazine article on a couple of dear friends; worked our decoy carvers show at Audubon for the afternoon; dinner with Michelle's family - mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law-to-be, the latter pair up from Maryland for the weekend.

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